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Terefe, the lucky survivor

20th August 2020
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Found seriously injured in Simien Mountains in May. Now reunited with his pack after an amazing recovery.  Read about Terefe’s fate – the first Ethiopian wolf ever to be nursed back to health and released to the wild. 

9th May 2020. Simien Mountains National Park scouts informed EWCP of a seriously injured wolf found under a bridge close to Ayenameda outpost. The wolf was transported to the camp, where under the close attention of Getachew Assfaw, EWCP Simien Team Leader, received veterinary care.

The news alarmed us; with an open wound and a shattered femur we feared the worst.But the events that followed proved not only the resilience of Terefe (meaning “lucky survivor” in Amharic language, christened by the scouts who looked after him) but also of the EWCP team, which together with Park managers led a complex operation while contending with the arrival of Covid-19 in Ethiopia.

Week 1. Our key concern was the wolf’s welfare. His injuries were treated, antibiotics administered, and a safe place prepared to house him. He was kept in the outpost, close to his natal range. Close examination revealed that the wound was the result of a gunshot, triggering an ongoing investigation to find the culprit. Shootings of Ethiopian wolves and other highland wildlife are very rare, but every life matters, and any such persecution cannot be tolerated. Against the odds, Terefe remained alert and active, eating and drinking well.

Five weeks later. Progressively the wound healed and Terefe’s body condition and mood improved, eating avidly and expressing with steady vocalizations his readiness to leave his temporary quarters.  Terefe was one of two adult males in the Ayenameda pack. A plan to release him back into Ayenameda territory was drafted and agreed. 

Terefe at improvised recovery facility in Ayenameda, on his way to recovery and eager to leave!

Release day: 28th July 2020. Nobody knew what Tefere’s reaction waking up from the anesthesia might be, as this is the first time that an Ethiopian wolf has been kept in an enclosed space ever, and kept away from his mates. Will he be accepted back into his natal pack, we wondered?

Girma and Getachew preparing the sat collar for the release

 

Muktar takes blood samples after administering anesthesia

These fine teeth indicates that Terefe is a healthy two year-old

 

Terefe wakes after Muktar injects him with the reversal drug

Week 1 after release. Tefere had so far stayed within the habitat patch that had been his home. Three days after the release, the monitors witnessed Terefe greeting profusely the two other wolves in Ayenameda pack. A happy reunion!

Terefe back on his hunting grounds.          

Week 2 after release. Every 12 hours Iridium satellites transmit location data from Terefe’s collar and we can follow it online. Without this, we would have never known that on the 10th day after his relelase, Tefere started travelling away from home and for six day visited the territories of two other packs before coming back.

Week 3 after release. Terefe stays in his Ayenameda range, looking healthy. What triggered the excursions away from his natal area – the onset of the mating season? maybe losing the dominant position in the pack's pecking order?

Weeks 4-5 after release. Terefe was observed exploring the Gich pack territory north of his range for a few days. As dense fog hangs over the Simien Mountains, he keeps hiding from the attentive monitors and their powerful binoculars. But the GPS collar reveals that he returned to leave soon again, revisiting the remaining habitat in that section of the National Park. The local people at Shehano village told EWCP Monitors that they saw “a big, limping and collared wolf” this week, reporedly in good condition. Will Shehano area become his new home? Terefe’s story will continue...

Watch this animation of Terefe's movements since released back to the wild over a month ago. 

 

The coordinated and selfless efforts that saved Terefe from what we believed was a fatal wound, have been remarkable. We want to say a big THANK YOU to our colleagues at the Simien Mountains National Park, Debark Woreda Veterinary Clinic, Ethiopian Wildlife Conservation Authority, and to the EWCP team under the leadership of Girma Eshete (Amhara Coordinator). Muktar Abute (EWCP Veterinary Team Leader) travelled from the Bale Mountains to take charge of the release operation; Fekadu Lema (EWCP Amhara Coordinator) and Getachew Assefa, Jejew and Andualem completed the team. Kept away from Ethiopia due to the pandemic, Eric, Jorgelina and Claudio worked closely with the team from our lockdown locations in UK and France.

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